New Work – What has this got to do with me?
A very personal journey into the new world of work
The reaction of most people to new subjects is initially resistance. Whatever you do, don’t leave the presumably safe and sure path! I am no different; I have also felt resistance when first confronted with certain topics. One of these topics is New Work.
New Work concerns how the environment and the way work is done can have positive impact on creativity and innovation. Basically, it sounds like a good idea. If we Germans are lacking anything, it is above all creativity and innovative capability!
My office is my castle!
That is why I first believed our management’s decision to introduce New Work was a good idea. Nothing would change for me – I thought. A culture of trust instead of results, activity-based working and open office instead of individual offices, co-working in lieu of hierarchies, open communication in place of silos, and the rigorous use of ICT (e.g., Enterprise 2.0 and booking tools) ultimately had only a little to do with my management work. An individual office was indispensable for me – because of the many personal, confidential discussions, if nothing else. Besides: Where would I keep all of my documents? I had just become an executive, had lovingly furnished my office with the help of my wife and my father-in-law: family pictures on the table, the “Hai bao” – a souvenir from the Shanghai Expo 2010 – decorated the sideboard, innumerable books in the shelves. Not to be ignored was the perfect location of the ‘cell office’: all of the required facilities – restroom, boss’s office, stairwell to the parking lot – within a radius of 10 meters. Employee interviews were held right in my office, reducing the encounters with employees from other departments to a minimum – logistics would probably call that route optimization.
And then I realized that I would be affected by the changes just like all other employees. So off I went into the open area? Not me!
Initial experience: my creativity rises …
I ignored the concept for three months after its implementation by consistently staying away and taking advantage of the home office regulations. But since I occasionally had to put in an appearance in the office, I was gradually forced to learn to appreciate the advantages of New Work – in no small part because of the inspiring art concept on our premises that repeatedly pulled me out of the habitual rut and distracted my eye. When we let ourselves be distracted and give our thoughts free rein, we promote our own creativity”, says Baird from the University of California in Santa Barbara, who investigates the effects of the working environment.
Thanks to desk sharing, there was no more “walling in”, but instead completely new contact opportunities, and topics arose completely by coincidence – but coincidence and coincidental encounters are fundamental prerequisites for creativity and innovation. “Coincidence is the spice of working life,” according to the American future institute.
New Work creates new spaces for opportunities
New Work, the redesign of the working environment and consequently the harmonious interaction of People, Places and Tools, opened up completely new possibilities for me and broadened my horizons significantly – to the benefit of the company.
It enables massive increases in productivity and employer appeal and awakens slumbering creativity and innovation potential of employees. “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower”. noted Steve Jobs. Innovation and New Work are leadership tasks.
The quote from a study conducted by the University of Illinois on “Employee Creativity” summarizes: “An unbearable working environment can paralyze even people with the best skills. The appropriate environment, on the other hand, spurs them to top performance.”
Today, I convince my clients of the benefits of New Work. The work on the concept and discussions with experts have already produced a book: New Work: Auf dem Weg zur neuen Arbeitswelt: Management-Impulse.
Marc Wagner is Managing Partner at Detecon and advises companies on issues of digital transformation. He is an expert for the subjects of New Work, People Management, Restructuring, and Integral Business.